Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, on Wednesday unveiled plans to launch a new “Amur” rocket. The device will be mechanized by innovative rocket engines that consume methane. For the first time, Russia is planning to develop a reusable first stage.
Roscosmos eyeing on a shoe-string budget of just $22 million for a launch on Amur, which is being promoted as being able to deliver 10.5 tons to low-Earth orbit. According to Alexander Bloshenko, executive director of Roscosmos for Advanced Programs and Science they are focussed on the reliability of their rocket, like a Kalashnikov assault rifle. The best part about Amur rocket design is that it looks like a smaller version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which is capable of lifting almost double payload into orbit.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket comprises a payload fairing of 5.2-meter diameter. Comparatively the Amur design has planned a 4.1-meter diameter. Both rockets contain a set of grid fins at the top of the first stage and landing legs at the base. Unlike the Falcon 9, instead of employing 9 engines, the Amur booster will employ 5 RD-169 engines.
Contrary to the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage which was developed to either return to its launch site or land downrange on a drone ship, the Amur booster will set-off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in eastern Russia and land downrange, probably at a location, yet to be created along the Sea of Okhotsk. Russia doesn’t have immediate plans for landing the booster at sea, due to frequent rough conditions in the Sea of Okhotsk. Roscosmos set the budget for development costs within $900 million, and each Amur first stage will be created to fly 10 missions during the preliminary test phase. Russia’s space leader, Dmitry Rogozin, has revealed about a number of ambitious space projects in recent years but afterwards took no initiatives to see that they’re carried successfully. Even under Roscosmos’ most promising timeframe, Amur would not be ready to take off until 2026. This is a pretty long time for a rocket development program, and it’s uncertain to predict the kind of market the booster will be entering into. For example, if SpaceX succeeds in making things according to its plans to create a fully reusable Starship launch system, that vehicle could be able to launch 10 times as much as Amur for the same cost or maybe less. This may pose a challenge for the Amur booster for increasing Russia’s share of the commercial satellite launch market.